Sherwood’s Notebook: A ‘War’ on Words of War…

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By the Notebook’s count, we seem to be replacing the “war on drugs” with the “war on cars” here in the District.

Cars are being discouraged and decriminalized marijuana may become a reality. Planners hate the “war on cars” phraseology, but diminishing their presence is a goal.

Fortunately, we haven’t had the “war on women” that infects politics in some states and in our national campaigns.

The “war on terror” continues unabated. But here at home, concern seems to be growing about the overreach of the National Security Agency and the militarization of our civilian police forces. The civilian police increasingly dress in military gear and carry weapons that rival battlefield armaments.

Of course, the chants of American “culture wars” change and continue, as they have since the 1920s and more radically since the 1960s. The “war on poverty” was prominent then, too.

Today, the tea party is waging its culture war, but not against Democrats. It’s waging war on its own home in the Republican Party. Tuesday’s elections in Virginia may have given us an idea of how the culture wars are playing out in that purple state.

The liberal left of the Democratic Party is aggressively pressing the income disparity in this country, but there is no popular “war on Wall Street” use yet. (Archconservative Lyndon LaRouche’s political action committee is on it.) The Occupy Wall Street activists among others flashed “No War for Oil” signs, but it’s not as catchy slogan as the “No Blood for Oil” chants that reverberated back in 2003 with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Your Notebook generally believes that “war” should be reserved for what it is, a horrific experience. Anyone who has been in war can tell you about it if there’s any doubt in your mind what war really is.

■ The Virginia results. Unfortunately our deadline arrived before voting ended. Going into the final hours, it still appeared Democrats were looking for a sweep of all three statewide offices (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general). We were wondering on Monday whether the despair over the Obamacare rollout was enough to drive angry citizens out to vote against the Democrats. It seemed to be the last best hope of the Republicans.

■ Real concussions. Forget hardball of the political kind. A new poll shows Americans are becoming more aware of football concussions, and that could affect whether parents let their sons play.

“Historically, youth football has fueled the NFL,” said Keith Strudler, director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “Parents’ concern about the safety of the game could jeopardize the future of the sport.”

The HBO program “Real Sports” and the Marist poll conducted the new survey in late October, which showed that 86 percent of U.S. adults have heard about the concussion problems. One-third of those polled said concerns over concussions would “make them less likely” to allow their sons to play. Long-term brain injury was the big concern. About 60 percent said concussions would make “no difference,” but the trend line doesn’t look too good for the sport.

■ Legal age for cigarettes. A grumpy cab driver nearly shouted at us on Monday when we were out with our NBC4 camera asking about a new D.C. Council effort to raise the legal age limit to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, the same as for alcohol.

“The council has got to get over this nanny-state stuff,” he grumbled. “Eighteen-year-olds should have that right.”

He said they have the right to vote, appear on juries, and serve in the armed forces.

“They should have the right to smoke if they wish. It’s a foolish habit, but they should have that right.”

Ward 5 Council member Kenyon McDuffie was planning to propose the change during Tuesday’s council session. The bill would be the subject of at least one public hearing before the council votes later this year or early next year.

At one convenience store in Ward 3, the shopkeeper hauled out a box full of fake identifications, more than a thousand. She said they’re mostly used by underage drinkers, but many are also from teenagers trying to buy cigarettes. If the city bumps up the cigarette age to 21, she’ll need a bigger storage box.

The move to make cigarettes more difficult to obtain comes as the council also is about to pass a law decriminalizing marijuana.

Alcohol, cigarettes, weed. We wonder whether D.C. officials will look next to replicate New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to ban sodas over 16 ounces.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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